Burlesque Costume Tutorial: Tricks With Tights
In a new series on 21st Century Burlesque Magazine, fabulous costumer, blogger and performer Viv Clicquot shares valuable tips and tricks, continuing with Tricks With Tights! (P.S. Looking for some stunning lingerie to go with those tights? There’s only one place to go…)
The topic of today’s post is one of the very reasons I started my blog. I used to look at photos of Vegas-style showgirls and wonder HOW on earth they managed to wear such sleek-fitting fishnets under such skimpy costumes. They seemed to just magically stay in place with no visible waist bands or weirdo bulges. I also wasn’t sure WHY these women with perfect-seeming legs were covering them with fishnets.
Particularly since my experiences with fishnets ususally resulted in something that looked more like this:
They inevitably start to get baggy and shapeless. Blech. Well, it wasn’t a fellow performer who taught me the way of the fishnet, rather it was a girl serving margaritas at an outdoor bar on Freemont Street in Vegas. She was wearing teeny tiny shorts and second-skin style fishnets. It was while downing margaritas that I was shown the way and the light. Here’s what I learned.
1) You have to buy specific fishnets and they have to have been designed specifically for stage-wear. The most important thing is the high lycra content. A minimum of 20% lycra is what is required. Two of the brands that I have purchased that fit this requirement are made by CAPEZIO and LEG AVENUE. These ones by Leg Avenue even have rhinestones up the back seam.
2) Be absolutely sure that when buying these they are labelled PROFESSIONAL. Because both of these brands have fishnet lines that are just regular-ol’ baggy-knee tights. They MUST be have the word professional in the title and they must be a minimum of 20% lycra, or any of the subsequent tips will not work.
3) Granted these tights are not cheap. Especially here in Canada where the dance shops sell them for around $40 a pair. But you have to absolutely believe me when I tell you these are no ordinary tights! Think of these as Spanx for your legs and butt that will not snag or run. These are so highly-elastic that they seriously hug your legs. Tightly. Not only does this instantly make your legs appear more tight and toned – regardless of how fit you are – but they also are extremely difficult to snag. There’s a reason that both JLo and Beyonce wear these on stage
They camouflage a wide variety of issues from cellulite – this one I know first hand all to well – by placing even pressure on your legs creating a much smoother line. Uneven skin tone, minor rehearsal scrapes or bruises practically vanish, aaaaannnnnd on the odd (ahem) occasion that I simply didn’t have time to shave everything that needs shaving…. these fishnets even hide THAT!
Putting them on for the first time is literally like putting on a girdle, you will instantly see how resilient and tough these things are.
4) Ok, check out a few closeups of these babies.
This is no exaggeration. That closeup in the circle does a great job of illustrating how truly elastic they are, there really is that much tension in the fabric.
These tights also have nice cushy footbeds and soft elastic waist bands. But. Here’s where we make these tights magic. You are going to take a pair of scissors and do any one of a wide variety of things with them. Yep. I said SCISSORS. And…. cut off the waist band. The whole thing. Just cut it right off. Go ahead… they won’t run or disintegrate. Because once you have removed the waist band you can now manipulate your tights to suit a wide variety of costume needs.
On the right is a pair of my own fishnets that I have worn for years. Literally. Years. My hand is pointing to where the waist band used to be. I removed the waistband because I wanted to wear these with skimpy scanties. You can’t do that with a wide waist band.
So how do I wear these tights while keeping the fishnets lined up under skinny side straps?
So above is a not-at-all-pretty photo of the back side of the the scanties. What I have sewn at the centre top is a fabric-covered coat hook. I stitched it in place and then reinforced all the stitching with blobs of gem-tac.
Now, when I put on the tights, I simply tuck the top of the tights under that hook. This stops the tights from sliding up past the top edge. So simple right? Repeat this process on the back side or any other point where you think the tights might slide up past where you don’t want them to be seen.
If you are going to be wearing a particular costume a lot, you could even dedicate a pair of tights to the ensemble by basting the tights to the garment. Like so:
It’s no big deal to undo the stitches to use the tights elsewhere. I recently had two back-to-back shows on the same evening at the same venue and to make my life easier, I just stitched this particular pair into place for the evening.
(p.s. the edges of the elastic that look grey?? It’s not grime, I coloured the front side of the elastic with a silver Sharpie to camouflage it better.)
Ok, so if you’ve wrapped you head around the idea that you can safely cut these tights here’s a couple other things you can do with them.
For example, the photos below shows a pair where I cut off the legs right where they meet the crotch. This allows you to wear them as true-thigh highs that sit right under your ass cheeks rather than half way between the knee and crotch the way most commercial stockings do. As a bonus wearing them right under your butt gives a wonderful lift effect.
You can weave a ribbon through the tops or a make a simple elastic loop to create optional garters to the top. Most people do not find this necessary, but I prefer the extra security they offer.
One more quick tip before I sign off… check out the feet of both me and SweetPea Magee in the following photo:
We cut the padded soles off the bottom of the tights, added an elastic loop to hold them over our centre toe, trimmed the raw edge with elastic sequins, and then added a sequin anklet over top. This is a great way to embellish otherwise bare feet. We needed to do this because we start the act in gum boots and couldn’t wear fancy shoes inside them!
In addition to removing the waist band, Bic tells me that showgirls also used to cut the front of tights into a flattering v-shape and then thread 1/4″ elastic through the top edge.
And Cheesecake Burlesque impresario, Champagne Sparkles, shared another trick with me today! Something she called the ‘showgirl tie’. You thread a piece of string or elastic underneath the tights, from back to front, below your crotch, then tie the two ends of the string together over the tights. this pulls them down into a V shape at both the back and the front.
The other thing this does is pull the tights, for lack of a better description, in to the ‘crack’ of your rear. why would you want to do this?? So that a g-string sits properly on your body and doesn’t look like it’s hovering away from you because it’s being held out by your tights. Instead, you want it to look like this:
In my dreams would I ever look like this! (Champagne Sparkles doesn’t know where she found this image, so if anyone knows the source, let me know! ) See how the waist dips in the back and follows the actual contour of both butt cheeks? That’s what the showgirl tie does!
Lastly… here is an actual shot of my butt being HEAVILY enhanced by the amazing lifting properties of these fish nets. Trust me, my butt does NOT look like this without the help of 20% lycra. Just lift your cheeks inside the tights the same way you do with your boobs in a push-up bra. Voila. Instant butt lift.
About Viv Clicquot
Hi there, I’m Viv Clicquot! Although I’ve been performing in some variety or other for most of my life, it wasn’t until I stumbled across the incredible organisation that has become my burlesque family, Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society, that I discovered this amazing form of entertainment.
Five years later, after having graduated from Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society and their Becoming Burlesque program, I have had the pleasure of competing at the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas and various international festivals, including the Vancouver International Burlesque Festival , Edmonton Burlesque Festival and the Munich Burlesque Festival.
I hope you find something useful or entertaining as you peruse my tips and tricks about makeup and costuming, and if you have any particular topics you would like me to address, just drop me a line.